How to Become a Consultant: Tips & Advice

Become a Consultant
Created by CakeResume

Consultants are professionals who work with clients or companies to help strategize, plan and provide insight and analysis for improved business outcomes. Professional consultants are specialists in their field or industry, many of who are highly educated in niche areas in economics, science, technology and medicine. 

Consultants are valuable to businesses as they provide objective insight and offer solutions for specialized problems based on their expert knowledge. Consulting is also a lucrative career, and the path to becoming a business consultant involves experience, education and networking.

What is a consultant?

Consultants are basically experts in their field who use their specialized knowledge and skills to help businesses with problems or ideas. Consultants can be employed for short or long term projects, either individually or as a team. 

Consulting as a career seems very vague; however, the assistance they provide is invaluable to a business. 

As consulting work is varied, you might be wondering what consultants do exactly.

Consulting work can involve a variety of responsibilities, including: 

  • Formulate strategy for a new product launch
  • Help a business expand to new markets
  • Resolving financial problems
  • Providing expert insight for marketing campaigns
  • Providing advice on manufacturing and materials for new products
  • Run analysis on data such as market trends, consumer research
  • Provide instructions or formulate business plans
  • Improve company employee or management structure
  • Distill information and present it to the team
  • Present ideas, analysis or results to company managers

Consulting professionals can work in many industries and every consultant’s role is slightly different, examples of different consulting careers include: 

  • Management consultant: advises companies on how to improve management structure and governance to ultimately improve employee and business outcomes
  • IT consultant: provides IT-related expertise to companies on how to optimize workflow using improvements in IT.
  • Strategy consultant: works with high-level management to make plans regarding business strategy, such as mergers & acquisitions, corporate strategy and investments
  • Financial advisory consultant: deals with financial decisions regarding risk management, taxes, restructuring and financial improvements for a business
  • Marketing consultant: offers expertise and industry insight into improving marketing campaigns & their outcomes
  • Personal consultant: helps individuals to review their strengths and weaknesses to formulate career, education and personal development improvements.
  • Legal consultant: helps businesses with legal issues regarding legal disputes, compliance with regulations and forming internal policies. 
  • Business consultant: helps with the organization and operation of businesses, optimizing internal workflow at all levels of management. 
  • Public relations consultant: works by liaising between the business and public by gathering public opinion and forming positive public presence. PR consultants can also work with high profile public figures to maintain positive media coverage and strategic career moves. 
  • Cybersecurity consulting: evaluates existing cybersecurity methods and helps businesses strengthen their online and internal security by recommending protocols and software. 

Consultant qualifications

Successful consultants have extensive education, experience and training in their chosen area of expertise. As consultants often help businesses with high-stakes problems, businesses will hire esteemed freelance consultants or consultants from reputable companies. 

For example, consultants in pharmacy or medicine will normally need to have a PhD in their area of expertise, while marketing consultants usually have an extensive portfolio or resume highlighting campaigns they’ve worked on.

Becoming a consultant usually requires a combination of these three things: 

  • Education 
  • Practical Experience
  • Certifications

✏️ Education:

There are disciplines where education is a must-have for consultants. Education to a university level is necessary, at the very least a Bachelor's Degree in the area you would like to become a consult in. For broader disciplines like management or business consulting, a Bachelor's Degree and relevant experience would suffice.

However, to be a successful consultant in certain disciplines, a Masters’, PhD or MD might be required. This is because education beyond the Bachelors’ level becomes specialized, and offers the opportunity for independent research or industry accreditation.

Although there is no ‘consulting degree’, many consultants choose to study one of the following, depending on their industry: 

  • Bachelor’s degree majoring in: Business, Finance, Economics, Psychology or International Relations
  • Masters of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Juris Doctor or Master of Laws
  • Doctor of Medicine or Pharmacy
  • PhD in their chosen discipline 

✏️ Practical experience: 

Although having an education is a necessary part of becoming a consultant, having practical experience is also valuable to starting your consulting career. Try to source jobs or internships either in consulting firms or within your industry of interest. Consulting work is ultimately finding ways to apply theory and education to improve business outcomes, so getting any form of practice is valuable. 

✏️ Certifications: 

Having certifications in niche skills is a way to stand out as a consulting professional. There are skills and education you can acquire without having to do an advanced degree, which will save you time and help you hone your expertise in your chosen area. 

Here’s a list of certifications which can be acquired to help you in your consulting career:

  • Project Management Professional (PMP)
  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
  • Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP)
  • Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)
  • Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR)
  • Healthcare Ethics Consultant Certification (HEC-C)
  • Certified Business Consultant (CBC)
  • Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT)
  • Certified Manager (CM)

Consultant skills

Consultants should not only have the expertise and experience related to their consulting work; they also need a variety of soft-skills to help them with day-to-day responsibilities. Consultants work under pressure and are given unique problems, therefore these skills are essential to becoming a consultant: 

✅ Verbal and written communication: 

Consultants will pitch ideas, write business plans and provide presentations to stakeholders and teams they are leading. Successful consultants have highly developed communication skills, where they can present abstract ideas and concepts with ease.

✅ Critical thinking: 

Consulting professionals are responsible for strategising or resolving problems; therefore they need to be able to critically analyze the information given to them.

✅ Organizational skills: 

Consulting work starts from an idea or problem, and it's the consultant’s responsibility to organize and plan a solution. Successful consultants are able to organize people, meetings, files and information without conflicts.

✅ Leadership: 

Consultants are given the freedom and responsibility to handle the project they are given. Consultants must be able to take the lead, manage people effectively and back their ideas to high-level stakeholders. 

✅ Self-motivation: 

Consulting professionals are given the responsibility of a large project, and must have self-motivation to organize and complete the task on time. Having a passion for your niche or area of expertise will help with motivation. 

How to become a consultant 

Although it seems like becoming a consultant is a difficult task, there is a clear formula to becoming a consultant. To start your consulting career, consider these steps: 

💡 Identify your area of expertise: 

Consultants are highly sought after due to their specialized knowledge in an area or industry. Although you don’t have to become an expert in your area, having extensive knowledge and experience in the relevant sector will help you find your niche. 

💡 Create a personal website: 

Having an online presence is necessary if you want to become a consultant. Successful consultants use their website to display their qualifications and experience, even listing the companies or projects they’ve worked on. 

💡 Obtain certifications: 

It's difficult to become an expert in an area without having education or training for it. Having a relevant degree or certification such as ones mentioned earlier will help you stand out as a consulting professional. Even though you might have the experience, certifications are deemed trustworthy by companies or individuals looking to hire a consultant. 

💡 Come up with your rates:

If you want to become an independent consultant, you should decide what your scope of consulting work is, and come up with rates for your services. You could make rates for per-hour consulting work, such as brief consultations or meetings, or packages which involve your consulting expertise for the duration of a project. 

💡 Write a resume: 

Even if you have a website, make a consulting resume which you can provide to clients who want to work with you. If you are just starting out your consulting career, try to phrase your resume in a way that shows off your skills and capabilities which you can apply to consulting work. If you want to work at a consulting firm, a resume is a must for applications.

💡 Prepare a cover letter: 

You might have to pitch yourself to professional consulting firms or clients using a cover letter. Emphasize your experience, skills, education and training and confidently state how you can add to a consulting team. Make a template cover letter which you can easily adjust to suit the role or project you want to work on. 

💡 Networking: 

Networking is a huge component of the consulting world. As many professional consultants have such niche areas of expertise, consultants want to connect with those whose skills will complement or enhance their team. Many consulting niches are not usually sought after by the general public, so networking within the consulting world will help you get hired. 

Consultant FAQs

Now that we’ve gone through the steps to becoming a consultant, here are frequently asked questions about consulting work, how to get into consultancy and the consultant career trajectory.

❓ What are the job prospects for consultants?

Usually, consulting careers start off at a consulting firm, where you learn how to work as a consultant. Typically, professional consultants will work at firms for 2-3 years, before doing independent consulting work or being employed by a company who wants their expertise full-time. The possibilities are plentiful, as consultants are mult-faceted professionals.

❓ How long does it take to become a consultant?

This depends on how long you study for and how you want to get into consulting. The shortest time would be studying a Bachelor’s Degree, then going into a consulting graduate program, which would take approximately 5-6 years in total. Studying Master’s or PhD, or gaining industry experience would add on to that.

❓ How much does a consultant earn?

This depends on the industry and the consulting work you do. A graduate consultant at a firm starts at approx $68 000 per year, with potential for bonuses. The salary depends on your experience, skills, education and performance.

❓ How can I find a job as a consultant without experience?

It's possible to be hired by a consulting firm for an entry-level consulting role as an associate. Utilize your education, experience and skills, try offering your expertise at a startup, look for an internship or independently work on projects you can add to your portfolio. 

❓ How do I network to become a consultant?

Try to find an internship or assistant role and form professional relationships with people in the company or industry. If you are an academic, attend conferences, stay up to date on research and participate in competitions and events related to your industry.

With CakeResume, you can easily create a resume online, free download your resume in PDF, and utilize ATS-compliant templates to create a resume. Create your resume online (free download) now and land your dream job!

--- Originally written by Bronte McNamara ---

Resume Builder

Build your resume only in minutes!